Expand is a meditative video game in which you explore a circular labyrinth that constantly twists, stretches and expands around you.
User reviews:
Overall:
Very Positive (83 reviews) - 93% of the 83 user reviews for this game are positive.
Release Date: Sep 30, 2015

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Reviews

“This unique experience is well-paced, polished, and brimming with ideas, and backed by one of the best scores I’ve heard in years.”
8/10 – Cam Shea, IGN Australia

“Expand is a wonderfully original experience that defies easy definition, but when you play it, you will know. You will know you've played something special.”
Mark Serrels, Kotaku Australia

“Expand is fiendish and clever, but what really stands out about it is how curiously emotional the experience is. It's definitely one of the most interesting games being developed in Australia right now.”
James O'Connor, games on net

About This Game

Expand is a 2D indie minimalist game in which you guide a pink square through a circular labyrinth that constantly rotates, unfolds and expands around you. Navigate through a world that can easily lift as well as harm you, keeping you disorientated and unfamiliar in your surroundings.

A world set in five stages, Expand offers an atmospheric experience of exploration, discovery and introspection through gameplay and compelling soundtrack designed to immerse you deeply into its allegorical themes.

System Requirements

Windows
Mac OS X
SteamOS + Linux
    Minimum:
    • OS: Windows Vista
    • Processor: 2.0 GHz
    • Memory: 512 MB RAM
    • Graphics: GeForce 8800 or Radeon® HD4800 series, 512 MB of memory
    • Storage: 300 MB available space
    Minimum:
    • OS: Mac OS X 10.9 - Mavericks
    • Processor: 2.0 GHz
    • Memory: 512 MB RAM
    • Storage: 300 MB available space
    Minimum:
    • OS: Ubuntu 10.10 64bit
    • Processor: 2.0 GHz
    • Memory: 300 MB RAM
    • Graphics: GeForce 8800 or Radeon® HD4800 series, 512 MB of memory
    • Storage: 300 MB available space
Customer reviews
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Overall:
Very Positive (83 reviews)
Recently Posted
Dragoon
( 0.3 hrs on record )
Posted: May 14
Never has going around in circles to calming music been so stressful.
Helpful? Yes No Funny
ktait
( 1.1 hrs on record )
Posted: May 3
Beautiful minimalist game that takes one of the most basic game concepts ever (go through the maze and avoid the red bits) and turns it into true art that explores more dimensions to this mechanic than I ever dreamed could exist.
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dangerhighdoltage
( 11.8 hrs on record )
Posted: April 28
Disclaimer: A review key was provided by the studio.

ESPRESSO REVIEW

Not a meditative, relaxing game as I assumed, but more a good reflex dodge em up with great rotational labyrinths to escape from. The remaining impression of rotating, expanding and collapsing levels will stick with you after you are done.

PROS

Intricate mazes to figure out
Monochromatic layout is a gorgeous modern art experience
Not as easy as you would expect
Music is a very nice low key electronic soundtrack that is well composed
Tests your reflexes very well, hard levels are not to be taken lightly

CONS

Can be frustrating for some more casual players
Controls are a little slower than I’d like, at least on my controller
Could use more save points on some levels, but at the expense of making those levels too easy

FRENCH PRESSED FULL CUP LONG REVIEW

I sit here strumming my fingers on the desk. “What is Expand?”, I ask myself. It’s quite a different game than I’ve played before. Originally, I thought it was a platformer. A few levels in and I quickly realized it’s more of a dodging game, but there is more to it than that. So, what is it like to play Expand? My best comparison is playing the old board game “Operation” while in a rotating circular clockwork kaleidoscope with crushing blocks that kill you in one shot.

I see some comparisons to a slow Super Hexagon, and I get that. Yet, I also disagree a bit. Super Hexagon is extremely fast paced and requires more frantic white-knuckle quick precision. Expand gives you more leeway with precision even though it’s also a dodging obstacle course like Super Hexagon. The music also plays a part as it’s substantially more easy going. When you die, you restart instantly which is amazingly more relaxing than most games. I never felt stressed out by the dying. Mostly, I’d get stressed out from not dodging well enough because it was my own damn fault.

Looking at the description I see the words “meditative” and assume a game that is relaxing, maybe even a casual play through. And I had that casual play though for a bit, but by the time I got halfway through the 2nd level, “Reach”, that completely disappeared...and then I hit the “Elude” 3rd level.


GAMEPLAY

Here I am stuck in a circular collapsing puzzle, trying to dodge red obstacles while weaving in and out of constantly moving black dashes with a one hit instadeath looming over me. This game has more in common with a bullet hell shump than with any platformer I’ve played. The music is rather calming; deceivingly calming and rhythmic that is.

The game starts off with a circular expanding menu. A nice touch, although, some folks who prefer straightforward menus may disagree with me. Games are autosaved, but be careful because some levels are multi-part and if you get halfway through and quit, then you’ll have to start it over again.

You are a pink square in this game, that’s your character. No interactive dialogue or cut scenes that I could see besides some words of wisdom in the beginning levels. You follow white labyrinthine paths within this rotating kaleidoscope-maze. Folding, unfolding, intertwining – the sections compose a maze-like map that you explore to find the chapters of the game. It’s nothing difficult to navigate, even with the monochromatic background. Once you’ve moved far enough you begin a chapter and are rotated into position.

Some levels go rather quick in the beginning, but then you get to one that is tense and a serious reflex challenge. This probably varies from gamer to gamer. Maybe more so for me since I’m not as quick as I used to be and these old gamer reflexes are kinda shot. Okay, I admit, my reflexes are made of marshmallow, not steel. I’m undeterred, though, and struggle through – the turtle eventually finishes the race, right? Note me down as a mediocre platform player who loves to keep trying.

What I find quite interesting is that as I die on a level, the game itself rotates a bit. As it rotates, I get progressively worse until I get back to a horizontal level again. It never occurred to me that the angle of the gameplay can affect how well you do. It’s pretty damned cool and makes it a bit more challenging.

I do feel that some levels got extra save points while others did not. Should those save points be added? I don’t know. Part of me says “OMG, Please add those save points for &^@#$’s sake!”. The other part of me says it takes some of the challenge away from the game. In particular, I got stuck on the 2nd chapter “Reach” on levels 11 and 13 for quite a long time. And again on the 3rd chapter “Elude” on levels 12 and 15, especially 15 which had no save points at all and I seriously struggled.

The first chapter is primarily an intro chapter where you get used to the game mechanics. The second chapter is about dodging red blocks that are out to get you. The third chapter called Elude combines both dodging black blocks that can crush you along with one touch instant death red blocks. It’s a bit like a pit and the pendulum situation trying to get past each level. The 4th chapter allows you to “Control” the moving blocks as you dodge them and then there is more after that which I won’t delve into for content's sake. With my terrible reflexes, I got stuck the most on Elude. Seriously, I spent hours there. Yet, I finished the Control level in roughly an hour. And the final parts in less time. Something about those Elude levels nailed me.

Geometry also gave me a noogie several times. I would have trouble maneuvering around and get stuck on the tip of a corner right when a red block was coming. It happened over and over. There was a point where I tried the WASD controls instead of my xbox controller- it was actually must faster and sharper yet I could not get the hang of it except for the Control 8 level where I found it easier to use than the controller. Maybe my controller is mushy, I don’t know. I would have used WASD if I could have gotten used to it. A controller was more intuitive, though.

FINAL THOUGHTS

What did I take away from the experience? Quite a bit, as this game is fairly original with only a few other games somewhat similar out there. You tend to remember the amazement of watching the levels unfold before you. Your movements on screen constantly change the maze around you and it’s a little mind blowing to say the least. You become the maze, the expansion, the pink square that is neither red nor black – struggling to find it’s place in this maze. If you enjoy puzzlers, platformers, or shumps you will likely enjoy this game. I certainly improved my rusty reflex gaming playing to the end. Throw a glass at me, I dare you. I bet I can almost catch it now. :-D
While there is no accompanying storyline, character dialogue, or drama. I don’t think this game needs it. What you see in the trailer is exactly what you get – a intriguing series of levels in a constantly shifting circular labyrinth. Well worth some time to play. 8/10.
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UnarmedOne
( 2.5 hrs on record )
Posted: April 12
Elegantly designed and starkly beautiful with echoes of Thomas Was Alone and Sound Shapes. An odd blend of meditative experience and a fiendish game of pattern recognition and route planning.

Excellent.
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Micrometalus
( 1.9 hrs on record )
Posted: April 8
Before we begin let's get one thing out of the way. This game is short. Very short.

It is otherwise utterly compelling. I wouldn't be able to stop if I hadn't finished it.
It starts with the simplicity. Everyone knows a maze. Then there's the short messages. They pull you further. Finally the music. The music was my hook. At times it is slow, methodical to fit a transitional area of the game. All of a sudden it becomes suspenseful, as though something lurks around the corner. Finally it reaches a fever state, in coordination with your possibly precarious position. And then it slows again.
The mix of simple game mechanics, progressive obstacles, and beautiful music make this an easy purchase for a fantastic, if short, experience.

I strongly suggest purchasing the music as well.
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Onyxite
( 2.0 hrs on record )
Posted: April 5
A wonderful, relaxing yet mind-bending experience. Feels like it fits into the minimalist puzzle genre, even though it's actually an action game a la Super Hexagon, not really a puzzle game at all. The game is tightly interwoven with its soundtrack, which seamlessly flows between variations when you finish a "room" -- I always appreciate games which do things like this with the music. The calm soundtrack is also a nice contrast from most games of this type, which, for me, helped me to concentrate on the trickier challenges.

Quite short, but totally suitable length for the low price, and it feels complete, with zero filler. Highly recommended!
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FyrestoneCowboy
( 1.7 hrs on record )
Posted: February 15
Gameplay: guide a pink square through mazes of increasing complexity, relying on pattern recognition and timing.
Game autosaves.
No Steam Cloud.
Checkpoints are generous.
Mesmerising, efficient art style.
Powerful, evocative soundtrack.
Highly Accessible controls - play with WASD or Arrows or Control Stick (recommended). No button presses required except to pause.
Considerable increase in difficulty in the 2nd half of the game.
Took me around 90mins to finish.
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geerky42
( 0.7 hrs on record )
Posted: February 11
Well I wouldn't exactly call it labyrinth/maze because there is not really much of them in this game, however it is great designed and relaxing spherical platformer that slowing turning into challenging and timed in a good way.
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james
( 2.2 hrs on record )
Posted: January 30
A beautiful game - both in its simplicity and design. Great puzzle game managing to be both tranquil and stessful simultaneously. Incredible piano music accompanies the game too and manages to make a simple game with no characters or dialogue feel dramatic.
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Shieldmaiden
( 4.2 hrs on record )
Pre-Release Review
Posted: January 6
In the late, great Sir Terry Pratchett’s Interesting Times, Cohen the Barbarian and his Silver Horde, a bunch of geriatric Conans, fight a room full of ninjas. They’re described as never moving quickly, they’re old men after all, but just effortlessly being where their enemies’ swords aren’t. Despite being a meditative game about negotiating a labyrinth and not about barbarians grandpas duffing up over-enthusiastic ninjas, I couldn’t get those words out of my head while playing Expand.

You can’t move quickly in Expand. Your pink box navigates the mostly monochrome maze at the brisk, yet unhurried pace of someone who knows where they’re going and will get their in their own damn time. It lends a peculiar sense of inevitability to your failures, as you have plenty of time to see them coming. There’s rarely an opportunity to adjust course and evade the moving bit of wall that’s about to squash you. You just have to figure out what you did wrong and try again.

And you will try again, because Expand is utterly compulsive. You move through screen after screen of whirling circular pathways, avoiding the insta-death touch of the red bits (Note to self: write “Is Expand about dangers of communism?” thinkpiece) and being squished by moving black bits. That’s it. There are no surprises, no Frog Fractions-esque genre-bending. Expand is simple, yes, but beautiful and elegant in that simplicity. Static screenshots can’t do it justice, so take a minute to watch the launch trailer.



Expand is also rather fiendish. The challenge of the labyrinth gradually ramps up, the sweeping, interlocking passages constantly teasing you and keeping you on your toes. There’s a sense of purpose in how the labyrinth moves, albeit one that is totally abstract and inscrutable. It’s like being trapped inside the mind of an alien god. The labyrinth never feels malevolent, just indifferent.

Even in it’s trickier moments, it’s a consistently chilled-out, meditative experience. Expand totally occupies parts of your brain with its twisting corridors, while leaving the higher parts to drift free. It’s reminiscent of the instinctual, reactive trance you can fall into while playing a good shmup, but without the need for the reflexes of a caffeine-addled teenager.

Chris Larkin’s wonderful score is a huge contributor to this and I strongly urge you to heed the game’s directions and play with good-quality headphones. The music lifts an already lovely game to new heights and adds a surprising amount of emotion to a game about moving a square through a maze. The final sections of the game are particularly notable as feeling more climactic than any heavily-scripted, fully voice acted AAA console game you care to mention.


I’m genuinely and pleasantly surprised by how much I’ve fallen in love with a two hour maze game. I was enraptured and will certainly be returning to tread those pathways again. Expand isn’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, some people need ‘splosions or cars or dialogue and that’s cool. But if it sounds at all appealing, I cannot recommend it highly enough. It’s less than a fiver and it’s out tomorrow, go buy it.
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Most Helpful Reviews  Overall
47 of 51 people (92%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
Recommended
4.7 hrs on record
Posted: October 1, 2015
Video Review:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q1TLMTBzUfI

TLDR: Expand is an interesting and innovative little indie game that might not appeal to everyone. It's a relaxing game about exploration and puzzle solving and I have enjoyed my time with it. Considering the price, if you are looking for something to fill a couple of hours or relax with after a long day you can't go wrong.
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22 of 25 people (88%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
Recommended
9.2 hrs on record
Posted: September 30, 2015
Follow me, says the game with a chime.

A week ago, I received an email from Expand developer Chris Johnson inviting me to play the game ahead of release. Since it was a game I was already interested in, I jumped at the opportunity.

Chris describes the game as a "meditative exploration through shifting circular labyrinths". It is a game that I find hard to frame my thoughts on - Chris' words are certainly accurate, but the game has another quality to it that's a little more difficult to define.

"What I found interesting about creating Expand," notes Johnson in the game's press release, "Is how you can convey a lot of emotion and movement using minimal colours and patterns.

The world can feel seamless as the unfamiliar space revolves around the player with no distinct loading breaks and this unfamiliarity is heightened by the soundtrack that cues off animations to the note.
"


Against the tide.

When I first spotted Expand, it was from across the showroom floor at PAX Australia in 2014, sitting next to the Assault Android Cactus as part of the Australian Indie Showcase, and I remember stopping for a moment to appreciate the level of diversity that that juxtaposition represented.

A friend of mine had mentioned earlier in the day that they loved the game and suggested I should stop by. I lingered near the booth, hoping to get a moment to chat with the developer, but the crowd of interested players didn't show any sign of dissipating and I watched others play for a while before moving on to catch a panel.


Be aware.

At first, Expand's circular "levels" (I'm not sure if "level" is the best word, but it's what I'm going to use here - they feel more like locations or environments in some abstract kind of way) seem like disjointed movement challenges, but it quickly becomes apparent that you are moving through a some kind of flatland-esque disc-shaped world, with sparse, but evocative cryptic instructions driving you onward through its labyrinthine settings.

The game itself is fairly short (nominally 2 - 3 hours' worth of play), but for something that's so minimalist, it expands out into an experience that feels longer and larger than it is. I'm yet to reach the end, but I feel confident that the game has more to tell and show me.

The game's gamepad inputs are simple - move an analogue stick to guide your avatar in that direction. The keyboard inputs are unexpectedly different, however, with right for clockwise rotation, left for counter-clockwise rotation, up for ascending towards the centre, and down to descend away. This is due to some coordinate wrangling hurdles that are easier to overcome with analogue axes than binary key presses. I generally find gamepads unpleasant to use, but in this case, I opted for gamepad controls.


Patience is needed.

There's something relaxing about watching people play Expand. It gives a sense that it's a game best played when you're at peace and can let the world drift away. There are points in the game that are timed (and some points where that timing becomes tight), but in the 5 hours I've spent in the game, I'm yet to find it to feel reflex oriented. Typically, Expand gives players plenty of time and space to observe and understand the challenges ahead.

In the event that the player does slip up, the level's shapes cycle and rewind back to the position of the most recent checkpoint, but offset slightly from its location when you passed there previously. This subtle, but significant change means that repetitive strain is lessened by having slightly different sets of movements to make, and over time evens out any inherent difficulty that might be caused by orientation (if you've ever tried to draw a circle, you might have found that you have an easier time drawing them in one direction than the other. After playing Expand for a little while, I began to wonder whether there were particular movements that I was less "good at" on particular orientations - thanks to this rotation on failure I never felt like that was handicapping me).

There are periods in the game where the placement of checkpoints feels sparse (particularly towards the end of a set of locations). While this means that these sequences can and will take a little longer, the value of preserving pacing and flow makes this choice feel justifiable.


Be close.

Outside of the menu, Expand's soundtrack feels dynamic and full, bringing a sense of atmosphere whilst also enhancing the sense of deliberateness that the movement of each scene's elements has as they dance and oscillate in time with the melodies.

"With Expand," says composer Chris Larkin, "We didn’t want to be bound by traditional narrative structures or characters. This is echoed in the soundtrack where core melodies create a slow emotional anticipation and, in combination with the minimalist art style, it allowed us to explore and evoke different moods without the constraints of a pre-defined genre or story."

"Like the game design, the approach to composing the music has been that of intuition. Consequently the result is something that is very personal to us."

I think I've found a word for that quality I couldn't describe earlier. I think it might be intimacy. It's clear that Expand is a labour of love and while I have never personally met either Chris, I feel somehow connected to them after playing an hour of this game.


And keep moving.

After a quick exchange this afternoon, I assisted Johnson in identifying and resolving a Linux specific multi-monitor issue. It turns out that he's a Linux user himself and that Expand was 90% developed on Elementary OS (I'm assuming that the remaining work was done on Windows and Mac whilst porting and fixing platform specific bugs). He uses Vim as his development environment and builds with Clang. It's always refreshing to discover a new Linux using developer, and this lead me to look at Chris' previous work.

Pouring over Johnson's previous games, one in particular stood out to me, a monochrome game with a circular playing field called Everything Shall Come to an End, which was made for a game jam in 2010. It is simple and lacks music, but it's easy to see that the raw seeds of Expand were sewn back then, and have since grown into something polished and grand.

"We essentially created Expand to highlight how a beautiful world can be created using only simple variations on game rules and environments," says Johnson.

Expand will certainly not suit everybody. Its slow pacing and thoughtfulness set it well apart from games like Super Hexagon that may superficially look similar. I'm very glad to have spent time with Expand though, and for anybody else who's interested, the game is releasing today on Steam, Humble Store and http://hypernexus.itch.io/expand.

(I originally published this on the 1st if October 2015 at GamingOnLinux)
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19 of 23 people (83%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
Recommended
2.0 hrs on record
Pre-Release Review
Posted: September 30, 2015
I need to say something before this review. Are you interested in Expand? Have you already looked at the Steam page and thought “That seems really cool and something I’d be interested in?” If so, here’s my recommendation. You stop reading this review, you buy expand and play it. Note that is my recommendation and not a guarantee that you will like the game, but I feel that if you are probably going to play this game anyway that you shouldn’t watch this review before you’ve played it. I do think that this review will, in whatever small way, take away from your experience of the game. I’ll say now that I think this game is incredible, but if you don’t trust me maybe try and look up some other reviews and try to only look at the score. If you still aren’t comfortable with that, then yeah, read the rest of this review, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Expand has a relatively unique and mind-boggling gimmick, that is, the whole game takes place in this weird infinite circle that you can’t escape from. As I began playing I felt like it was gonna be this relaxing experience. I felt myself getting into the game, but it was really mellow for the first 5-10 minutes. The game then opens up into, hilariously, a kind of open world. It’s really odd. You’ll find that this infinite hell-scape really messes with your head, or at least it did for me.

So the game is pretty much split into four sections, each with their own theme and mechanics. The game does a really good job of toying with your perception of the world, and, at times, it completely subverts your concept of how the world works.

So the gameplay is fun, it’s always switching up, and it’s satisfying to see the level building and folding in, on itself as you play. The other thing is, the game is really difficult. I feel like if you struggle with patterns or making your brain click in a certain way -- like that video of the spinning ballerina that changes direction depending on how you look at it -- if you have trouble switching between the two directions of the ballerina (like I do) then this game is gonna be hard. I found the most difficult thing was wrapping my head around the patterns, and really the answer was to just look at things from another perspective.

So that’s great, you can’t really get that in any other game which is cool but there’s something else that this game does -- and this is the section of the review that I feel might ruin your experience of the game so just be warned about that -- the game has a surprisingly good story. Now that sounds insane, because there are no characters in this game (or well, technically there is but there’s no people), no dialogue, it’s simply abstract shapes moving around the screen. But it does have a story. It’s an incredibly simple one and I won’t tell you what it is, though it isn’t the story itself that is done amazingly well; it’s the execution. At the end of this game I got goosebumps. I was emotionally moved, by weird shapes moving around, topped off with some awesome music. And it wasn’t JUST because of the music that I got goosebumps, it was because I realised what the story of the game actually was.

It’s really really cool. The first thing that comes to mind is Thomas was Alone, but that had dialogue; this game has literally nothing but music and shapes. It’s honestly like nothing else I’ve ever experienced, and I know that anyone who plays it after hearing me say this is not going to enjoy it as much as they would. People should go into this game with no knowledge of any kind of story.

So, do I recommend Expand? Is that even a question? For 6$ I absolutely do.

This review in video form: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eav9Z109Lck
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11 of 13 people (85%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
Recommended
1.8 hrs on record
Posted: September 30, 2015
A truly phenomenal game that ties mechanics and emotions together through clever themed challenges with powerful music. Saying more would simply act to spoil the experience you'll have playing Expand, so just go ahead and buy it. For me this was an experience on par with Journey.
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12 of 15 people (80%) found this review helpful
Recommended
4.2 hrs on record
Posted: October 25, 2015
As a boy, I always loved mazes, and today one of my favorite things about video games is the ease with which they can impossibly manipulate space. So you can imagine what a dream-come-true Expand represents for me as it continuously draws and redraws its maze, repurposing the same canvas over and over again. It appeals directly to the child at the core of me with its beautifully animated clockwork machinations.

The effect is immediately enchanting, but what really surprised me was how dramatic and affecting this experience can be at length. Whether the maze seems to be guiding or daunting you, the flowing rearrangements of its space paired with a dynamically developing musical score create something rather cinematic in style as melancholy piano gradually builds into uplifting chords over encouraging percussion, each step in its evolution magically timed to your actions and progress, eventually reaching a crescendo to accompany a climax of level design.

Expand has been described as a slower Super Hexagon. That comparison may seem helpful on a superficial level, but it fails to meaningfully communicate (or appreciate) the nature of either game. Expand is not an arcade game. It's not a puzzle game. It's an action-adventure game—like a platformer, essentially, although obviously from a different mechanical perspective since it's top-down, gravity isn't a factor, and there are no actions to perform aside from moving with the analog stick. It presents a series of hand-crafted micro-levels, and you simply navigate their hazardous patterns. What makes it so special, however, is the relationship between these "levels."

When you watch its trailer, you might get the impression that Expand consists of a series of discrete stages, but it's not structured that way at all. While the game is divided into labeled sections like "Elude" and "Control" whose mechanisms pleasingly fit within the themes that those names suggest, every bit of the level design itself unfolds smoothly as the circular labyrinth transforms itself around you. The continuous experience created by these seamless changes in the long run captures my imagination so completely and so elegantly that I find this aspect of Expand invaluable and sufficient grounds for recommendation on its own, entirely regardless of its merits as a game.

Yet those merits, too, are strong. The entire game takes place around a circular core—such that lateral movement is actually rotational—and its scenarios explore the action-puzzle ramifications of this concept. For example, an early "room" sees geometry constantly push out from the center in a ripple. To stay ahead of it, you need to move around the circle while remaining as close to the center as possible because it maximizes your rotational speed; if you drift away to the outside of the circle, you will have more ground to cover, fall behind, and get squashed. Later situations add the wrinkle of maze design unfolding as you move closer to the core, as though your perspective were changing with distance. The environment responds to your movement in many other ways, as well; my favorite "device" is when paths open up or close off as you repeatedly revolve around the circle's center. It makes you feel like the brilliant pick inside an incredibly complicated lock.

Just about all of the action in Expand is quickly intuitive, and the whole game moves along at an even pace, aided by generous checkpointing and unobtrusive retries upon failure. It's challenging to the point of being engaging, but it's not a hard game. There are no limited lives or other penalties for failure, so even the most difficult patterns can be practiced repeatedly—although you generally can't brute force your way through because each trial is long enough to test for proper understanding. Overall, Expand is satisfying to complete; but it's not about the challenge—there are no achievements here—it's about the experience, which is remarkably emotional given its abstraction.

Expand is a short game, unlikely to last more than two hours for most players, but that length is just right for it to fully explore its premise. Once it's over, it sticks with you. There's just nothing else out there like it, and, as memorable as it is, I'm sure I'll indulge in regular replays. I never realized how badly I was missing something like this, but now that I have played it I can't imagine my library without it. If you have even a vague interest—if Expand even remotely seems like the sort of thing you might enjoy—I definitely recommend it.
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7 of 7 people (100%) found this review helpful
Not Recommended
1.8 hrs on record
Posted: December 27, 2015
I heard a lot of glowing press about Expand from the gaming press. There was that Mark Serrels Kotaku article comparing two sides of the Australian indie coin: Hacknet and Expand. Both developers revered each others games even if they never saw eye to eye on matters. I bought Hacknet at launch and disliked it intensely. But Expand was visually striking with an interesting base gameplay mechanic: it sounded like a game that I'd be way into. Maybe that should've been a sign. I purchased Expand and in one sitting completed it, feeling wholly unsatisfied with the experience.

While there's an interesting aesthetically-tied gameplay idea at the core of Expand, it feels as if it--excuse the pun--never actually gets expanded upon. It's quite short with a very limited set of light action-puzzle mechanics that oscillate between serviceable uses of the circular mechanic to simply frustrating timing-based puzzles. None of the sets of puzzles and their associated mechanics really feel cohesive or justified in the context of the game's world and feel quite arbitrary. It's never hard enough to be considered challenging or 'masocore', nor is it engaging enough to be enjoyable as an easy going game about exploring this very tightly constructed and authored psuedo-labyrinth.

The game consists of four main levels, your spokes from the main hub world. These levels each have some loosely connected mechanic that ties the stage together. It never feels like you're exploring a labyrinth or maze, it's incredibly straightforward with very little deviation from the critical path. It's always obvious where you need to go, though that's not necessarily a negative. Once all four are complete you go through a kind of gauntlet, each one of these previous elements after one another. Then the game's over. You escape your confines, but not in any interesting or meaningful way. I'm not sure what I was expecting, but it just never felt like anything particularly special like I was lead to believe. One somewhat novel mechanic wrung dry over two hours.

I understand that the description calls Expand "meditative" but there's a clear progression and roadblocks that have to be overcome. That adjective is certainly up to the player themselves, it can be a meditative experience if you want. The game's structure seems counter to these goals. I'll go into a figurative trance in games like Flywrench or Mini Metro, but I didn't feel that same draw in Expand.

Visually, Expand is perfectly okay. It's initially enticing with its extreme contrasts, but I think it lacks some kind of... edge? Despite being full of 90 degree angles I think it looks 'soft' in a way that puts me off the more I play it. It has a definite style but it feels tame. It's hard to describe but I think there's more that could be done visually. I never felt a sense of space or continuity, just a series of screens. Adventure for the 2600, an ancestor of sorts, evoked a sense of place more than I felt Expand did.

Circa Infinity, another 2015 release, attempts a similar sort of visual style: black and white, circle-based. Even some of the mechanics appear similar. I find it quite a bit more successful in its execution.

The score to Expand is certainly my favourite part. Chris Larkin's compositions are fantastic and you do get a sense of growth and expansion, of progression which I did enjoy. I'd like to say the evolution of the felt seamless, but there were some very noticeable transitions when entering the next level. It's a very minor thing but very detrimental to the feel of the experience.

One very minor thing I loathed: the options menu being in world. It's an idea that sounds great in concept but is just awful to use. Getting around the 'menu' system is a pain, even when you understand it. It's not immersive.

I think what it comes down to is that Expand feels like a flash game from the mid-late '00s that you'd find on Kongregate or the like. It feels hollow. Expand is a fleeting experience comprised of mechanics that aren't especially interesting or memorable There's no message or tale to be gleaned, not really much to be interpreted. I saw Expand being hailed as an under-appreciated Australian indie gem, but after finishing Expand it feels more like a starved community grasping at straws, trying to get recognised on a global scale.

I wanted to like Expand! It feels like a 'me' game through and through. I didn't.
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6 of 6 people (100%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
Recommended
3.3 hrs on record
Posted: October 2, 2015
Simple and Beautiful.. This is a top down abstracted journey. Game play is relaxing and challenging at the same time. Soundtrack is relaxing and amazingly good. It's not a maze, but a top down platformer represented with simple geometric shapes.
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6 of 6 people (100%) found this review helpful
Recommended
1.4 hrs on record
Posted: October 13, 2015
*Key provided by developer

On steam the game is described as “a meditative video game in which you explore a circular labyrinth that constantly twists, stretches and expands around you,” and it is the best description you will ever get of how this puzzle game works.
Even the menu (which has a full range of options, from window to sound to resolution… ) is a little adventure on its own, as it serves as a quasi introduction to how you will be moving around once you start the game.

The labyrinth that is this circle seems to be in constant movement - and so will you be, as you navigate through it with a most delightful, relaxing soundtrack and sounds, solving puzzles and finding your way through the nearly seamless integration of levels.
The game ‘auto saves’ fairly often enough via various checkpoints, so that when you fail at a section the circles will swiftly return to the position of the last checkpoint, and move a bit as if to ‘help’ you get your bearings better (though I can’t say it helped me as much)… because you most definitely will need to get your bearings at first.

The controls are initially confusing because of the circular nature of the game area - what is up in one part of the circle will be down in another part as if you were gravitationally pulled, and so you must adapt as the circular labyrinth breaths. It truly seems to be alive, as it moves, expands and contracts depending on the areas and what you do.
You can play with a gamepad or with your keyboard wasd/arrow keys, giving you enough flexibility to try and find what’s most comfortable to you.

I didn’t find this one quite as relaxing as I found Hook, however, it’s still a beautiful puzzle game with a beautiful soundtrack that is visually very pleasant.
Do be warned, however, that in some of the levels the various movable pieces will be rotating around and can make overly sensible people a little bit dizzy. They were going slowly enough that it wasn’t that much of a problem to me, but it’s a possibility.
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3 of 3 people (100%) found this review helpful
Recommended
2.6 hrs on record
Posted: December 23, 2015
This game is ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥ lovely, and I'd recommend it to everyone. It's short, almost meditative, wonderfully designed, with a beautiful soundtrack and a fantastic flow to it. Brilliantly executed, and lasts exactly as long as it needs to. Buy it now.
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3 of 3 people (100%) found this review helpful
Recommended
1.7 hrs on record
Posted: February 15
Gameplay: guide a pink square through mazes of increasing complexity, relying on pattern recognition and timing.
Game autosaves.
No Steam Cloud.
Checkpoints are generous.
Mesmerising, efficient art style.
Powerful, evocative soundtrack.
Highly Accessible controls - play with WASD or Arrows or Control Stick (recommended). No button presses required except to pause.
Considerable increase in difficulty in the 2nd half of the game.
Took me around 90mins to finish.
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